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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez goes deep once again in loss Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:15 pm ET) There seems to be no stopping Carlos Gonzalez right now. The Rockies' right fielder homered for the eighth time in his last seven games in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Cubs. Gonzalez, who went 1 for 3 on Wednesday, also has 11 longballs in his past 17 games.

Gonzalez now has 21 big flies on the year, with about half of them coming this month. 


Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo delivers two-run homer in win Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:11 pm ET) Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo came through in the clutch with a big two-run home run in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies. Rizzo's blast gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the third inning, and they were able to hang on for the victory.

The homer, Rizzo's 17th of the year, was his only hit of the afternoon. The young star has been struggling at the plate over the last few weeks, as he's hitting just .132 with two RBI over his past 10 games. His season average has dropped from .294 to .279 over that stretch.


Cubs' Dexter Fowler helps beat former team in win Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(6:06 pm ET) Center fielder Dexter Fowler got the party started for the Cubs on Wednesday, as he led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to put his team up 1-0 early. The Cubs would go on to beat the Rockies 3-2.

The home run, Fowler's 10th of the year, was his only hit of the afternoon. He did walk twice and score twice however. He was also caught stealing for the sixth time in 22 attempts.

Fowler has been heating up at the plate, batting .361 with two home runs over his past 10 games.


Rockies SP Eddie Butler hurt by longball in loss on Wedesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:58 pm ET) Rockies rookie starter Eddie Butler pitched fairly well against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon, but he was simply outpitched by the crafty veteran Jon Lester. Butler allowed three runs on five hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out four, needing 82 pitches (45 strikes) to get through the fifth in the 3-2 loss.

Butler (3-7, 4.82 ERA) was bitten by the longball on Wednesday. He gave up a lead-off home run to Dexter Fowler in the first inning, and then allowed a two-run shot to Anthony Rizzo in the third to account for all the scoring the Cubs would have on the afternoon.

The youngster has made two starts since coming back from the minor leagues. He has given up six earned runs over 11 innings in those outings. He has yet to more than six innings any start of his young career.


Rangers SP Derek Holland set for Thursday start at Triple-A
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:55 pm ET) The Rangers have announced that starting pitcher Derek Holland will be dispatched to Triple-A Round Rock for an outing Thursday.

The announcement confirms an earlier report.

Holland, who has been out since April with a shoulder injury, is scheduled to make three minor league starts before returning to the Texas rotation.


Yankees CF Slade Heathcott's to rehab in Triple-A
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:55 pm ET) Yankees center fielder Slade Heathcott will have his rehab assignment moved up to Triple-A, according to The Journal News.

Heathcott is currently on the 60-day disabled list with an injured quad.


MRI reveals bone spurs in elbow of Braves SP Manny Banuelos
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:52 pm ET) A MRI revealed that Braves starting pitcher Manny Banuelos has a bone spur on the posterior portion of his left elbow, according to MLB.com.

Though the bone spur isn't exactly good news, there is still hope that Banuelos could pitch for Atlanta this season.


Cubs RP Hector Rondon gets first save in over a month Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:49 pm ET) Cubs reliever Hector Rondon recorded his 13th save of the year in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Rockies. Rondon struck out two and walked a batter in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the victory.

The save was Rondon's first since June 20, as the Cubs have been mixing and matching at the back end of the bullpen for the last month or so. Still, Rondon has been scored upon just once in his last 19 outings, and his ERA is down to 1.80 for the season.


Cubs SP Jon Lester K's 14 Rockies in 3-2 victory Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:46 pm ET) Cubs starter Jon Lester was terrific on Wednesday afternoon, as he struck out a season-high 14 batters, en route to the 3-2 win over the Rockies. Lester allowed two runs on five hits over eight solid innings, as he threw 77 of his 117 pitches for strikes.

Lester (6-8) gave up a run in the fourth, and another in the seventh on a Carlos Gonzalez solo home run. Other than that, he kept the Rockies at bay with the 14 whiffs. Lester recorded the most amount of strikeouts in a game by a Cubs pitcher since 2004, and he's the only Cubs left-hander to strikeout 14 batters in a game since at least 1914. 

Lester has pitched at least seven innings in each of his past seven starts, going 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA over that stretch.


Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion scratched from lineup on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:38 pm ET) Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion was scratched from Wednesday's lineup against the Phillies due to a finger injury. 

Encarnacion is dealing with a jammed middle finger. He underwent X-rays, which came back negative. It is unclear if the slugger will be available off the bench on Wednesday.

Chris Colabello has entered the lineup at first base to replace Encarnacion.


 
 
 
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